Far Far Away

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal Read Free Book Online

Book: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tom McNeal
at the library table, and while playing, they would pretend to be on the constant lookout for potential retail trade.
    “That a customer?” one of them would say when somebody approached on the sidewalk, and then when the pedestrian had passed by, another would say, “Guess not.”
    This droll ritual finally drove Jeremy’s grandfather into such a state that one afternoon he threw the domino players out, and the dominoes, too. During the months that followed, Jeremy was the only person whose company his grandfather could tolerate. He took seriously the voices Jeremy heard, even going so far as to have Jeremy repeat the words whenever he received them. “Ghosts,” his grandfather finally surmised. “You’re hearing ghosts.” He squinted at Jeremy. “Do you see ’em, too?”
    Jeremy said he never saw any ghosts, and a few days later his grandfather, having done his research, announced that Jeremy was not a
clairvoyant
but a
clairaudient
. “That’s a person whohears voices from the spirit world.” His grandfather had also come to another conclusion. “When these books sell out,” he said, waving a hand vaguely toward the shelves stuffed with his autobiographies, “I’m going to add a chapter about you for the next edition.” He smiled at Jeremy. “You’re quite a curiosity.”
    Jeremy and his grandfather became friends of the best type. Each saw in the other the subtle but estimable qualities no one else saw. One day, Jeremy came into the store with his cheeks red from crying. Somehow he had lost his house key—again—and it seemed to him to signify something larger. “I’m nothing but a loser,” he said, and flopped down on the old red sofa.
    Jeremy’s grandfather sat right down beside Jeremy and said, “You may be a loser of keys, Jeremy, but that doesn’t make you any other kind of loser.” The next day, he presented Jeremy with the long leather cord that he still wore, beautifully knotted, on which hung a brand-new house key. He slid it over Jeremy’s head, tucked it into his shirt, and said, “There. That should do it.”
    It did. Thereafter Jeremy never lost a house key again.
    Days, weeks, and months traveled not unpleasantly by.
    Then, three years ago, on a chill wintry day while Jeremy was at school, the old man’s heart failed and he fell dead. He evidently passed quickly through the
Zwischenraum
, but before departing, he found Jeremy in his school classroom.
    You’re a dear, good boy
, he said,
and I love you more than the sun and the moon
.
    Jeremy, who had been at his desk doing math sums, sat stockstill and wondered how the voice he was hearing could sound like his grandfather’s.
    He rubbed at his temple more and more frantically, but his grandfather’s voice did not come again.
    “No!”
Jeremy said in a strange, strangled whisper, and then, dropping his pencil to the floor, he rose from his desk and, in spite of the teacher reproachfully calling his name, ran straight to the Two-Book Bookstore, where he found his grandfather lying dead on the old Persian rug.

    For several days, the final examinations proceeded well. The first few tests came and went without difficulties.
    On Thursday night, however, something happened.
    The evening began in quiet study. Only two exams remained—one in geometry and one in classical vocabulary. Our contemplation of geometry had taken most of the evening, with Jeremy, at my promptings, reciting his axioms and postulates. This had aggravated his father as he lay in the next room watching television. “Not so loud!” he yelled from time to time.
    And so, when geometry was finally finished, Jeremy took his vocabulary book up to the attic, where I could quiz him without annoyance to his father. I would pronounce a word and Jeremy would give its definition, followed by the Latin or Greek derivation. Unlike other subjects, vocabulary came quite easily to Jeremy. It was just a matter of taking the time to rehearse the words. He remembered

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